Off the Hoof

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Design & Banding


In addition to belonging to the design team of rockstars, I also belong to a rock band of designers. My all-designer band has taken a promiscuous attitude to our band’s online presence. We’ll make a band page on whatever new music site sounds worth the set-up time and see what sticks. Like the parent who overloads her kindergartener with too many extracurriculars, we’ve signed our band up for 20+ music sites. But there is only one web-related question we get from other bands and new fans: “Do you guys have a MySpace?”

Why is ugly, ad-heavy, slow-loading MySpace still the main site people go to to hear bands? Trendy teens and clueless entrepreneurs alike have moved on from the sleaze, but not bands. It’s still the main way our band gets listened to, connects with other bands, and sets up shows. After three years with an account and an unimpressive (by band standards) 40k+ views, we get contacted by bands from Berlin to Burlingame looking to play shows in San Francisco. It’s a popularity contest, I admit, that I subscribe too. If a band has less than 5k views, I’m thinking they’re babies at this band thing.

Why do people still use MySpace to check out bands? Consistency. I can go to Beyonce’s page and Simon Lebron’s page and find their songs in the same place. There is also a high chance of finding out who’s in the band, their next show, and contact information.

Until another site can boast every band’s info like this, I will be checking MySpace. With Ugh. As a designer, there are several sites out their that are furthering design in the name of music. Here are my three favorites:

The Sixtyone is like D&D for music snobs. Quests, levels, a “music adventure”: game on! T61’s straightforward, clean design doesn’t have a ton of personality, but the site interactions are very thoughtful. Press play in the header and you’ll see what I mean with the uninterruptible music player and friendly corner dialogs. Our reoccurring user success story that we haven’t seen on any other sites (except maybe YouTube)—we get rabid fans from T61. They email us saying they remember when we were just Level 7 and they have been there bumping us (a good thing) ever since. And then they show up to our shows and tell us some more! Flippin’ awesome.

Muxtape is an elegant beauty. The site’s most recent and totally legal incarnation allows indie bands, by invitation only [hot breath on nails], to build themselves a page showcasing their songs, about information, and likely some big photos of themselves all chopped up. I love how this site encourages user-created good design. Bands are confined to a 3×4 grid to fill with whatever they please, but really what more do you need? Since the good design on Muxtape requires no hacking, the designs are usually elegant and simple.

The Next Big Sound allows you to see how a band is doing in a nice little data visualization. It surveys the views, listens, comments, and fans a band has on a handful of big music sites. The real high-school fun happens when you can compare the popularity of different bands. The graphs is usefully colorful and easy to recalculate. Unlike the other two mentioned sites, this site isn’t as interesting to folks without bands. But bands beware—NBS can be a mood-altering substance.

So what have we done with our design freedoms and constraints on all these sites? Well, if you really must know—here is my band, My First Earthquake, are on all the mentioned sites:

The Sixtyone


Next Big Sound


And totally within our own control:

Our site

Writing CSS Efficiently

About Mule Design Studio

Mule creates delightful interfaces, strong identities, and clear voices for useful systems and nice people.
Also, We are funnier than all other designers.


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